HALE COUNTY . Hale County is on the Llano Estacado in northwest Texas, bounded on the east by Floyd County, on the south by Lubbock County, on the west by Lamb County, and on the north by Swisher and Castro counties. Its center point is at 34°05' north latitude and 101°50' west longitude, about forty miles north of Lubbock. The county was named for John C. Hale, who died at the battle of San Jacinto. Hale County covers 979 square miles of flat terrain, with fertile sandy and loamy soils and many playas; the elevation ranges from 3,200 to 3,600 feet above sea level. There is a considerable supply of underground water from the vast Ogallala Aquifer. Running Water Draw cuts southeastward across the county through Plainview, and Black Water Draw touches the southwestern part of the county. Hale County's average annual rainfall is 19.34 inches. The average minimum temperature in January is 26° F, and the average maximum in July is 93°; the growing season lasts 211 days. Hale County produces an average annual agricultural income of $160 million, 80 percent of which comes from cotton, corn, soybeans, sorghums, wheat, and vegetables; the remainder derives from beef cattle, swine, and sheep. In 1982 the county had 468,000 acres of irrigated land. Petroleum production in 1990 was more than 1,941,000 barrels; by January 1991 more than 148,177,000 barrels of oil had been pumped from Hale County lands since its discovery in 1946. Food processing and the manufacture of farm equipment generated $46,700,000 in 1991. The county's road network includes U.S. Highway 87 (Interstate 27), which runs north to south, and U.S. Highway 70, which runs west to east. The Santa Fe and the Fort Worth and Denver rail lines cross the county.
In 1911 the county's first motor-driven irrigation well was drilled, and the prospect of a steady water supply attracted eastern capital to the area. The Texas Land and Development Company purchased about 60,000 acres around Plainview in 1913 and invested about $2 million developing farm tracts, laying out a pleasure park, and planting fruit trees, grapevines, and shade trees; the company also established a 630-acre experimental farm staffed by a team of agricultural experts. By selling land to farmers in tracts of forty, eighty, and 160 acres, the company played an important role in Hale County's development. By 1920 the county had 1,031 farms, encompassing 576,000 acres; almost 168,000 acres was devoted to the cultivation of cereal crops, especially sorghum, and cotton had begun to become important to the county.
In the 1940s the county began a period of extended economic expansion that lasted into the 1960s, partly because of the discovery of oil in 1946. Production of crude neared 1,890,000 barrels in 1948 and exceeded 2,478,000 barrels in 1956. The county's economic expansion after the depression was also promoted by the growth of manufacturing. In 1947 Hale County had only eighteen manufacturing establishments, employing 425 workers. By 1963 there were forty-four manufacturers in the county, employing 790 workers; and in 1982 there were forty-eight manufacturing businesses in Hale County, employing 2,100. After the population decline of the 1930s, the number of residents increased steadily during the 1940s and 1950s, but fluctuated afterward, partly in response to alterations in the petroleum industry; oil production dropped from 1950s highs to only 1,518,000 barrels in 1960, for example, before rising again to almost 6,552,000 barrels in 1974 and almost 9,163,000 barrels in 1978; in 1982 it was 4,469,000 barrels. Meanwhile, the United States census counted 18,813 people in the county in 1940, 28,086 in 1950, 36,798 in 1960, 34,137 in 1970, 37,592 in 1980, and 34,671 in 1990.
Mary L. Cox, History of Hale County, Texas (Plainview, Texas, 1937). Vera D. Wofford, ed., Hale County Facts and Folklore ( Lubbock, 1978).